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Bulger knocked out of loss to Lions

12/28/2003

DETROIT (AP) -- Grant Wistrom stewed on a chair in front of his
locker, with an ice pack on his elbow and a disgusted look on his
face.

With the top seed in the NFC to play for, the St. Louis Rams
could not beat a team with only pride on the line.

Joey Harrington threw three touchdown passes and Marc Bulger was
knocked out of the game in Detroit's 30-20 shocker over the Rams on
Sunday.

The Lions scored 20 straight points in the first 15:31 of the
second half to take a 30-20 lead, which they were easily able to
maintain against the suddenly shaky Rams, who had won seven
straight.

"We came out flat," Wistrom said. "It was evident when we
warmed up and on the first snap. Football is an emotional game, and
they obviously wanted it more than we did."

St. Louis (12-4) squandered a chance to be at home throughout
the NFC playoffs, something it had en route to the 2001 and 1999
NFC championships.

The Philadelphia Eagles now have that edge and can thank the
lowly Lions (5-11) for winning a game they were expected to lose by
double digits.

"This team was not prepared and ultimately, that comes back on
me," St. Louis coach Mike Martz said. "I just felt like we
weren't as excited about playing as we normally are, and that's my
responsibility."

Bulger was replaced by Kurt Warner early in the fourth quarter
because Martz said he was concerned about the hits Bulger was
taking.

The Rams said Bulger left the game with a bruised forearm after
he was sacked on a helmet-to-helmet hit by Otis Smith.

"I don't need a reason, nor do I complain," said Bulger, who
was 18-of-31 for 170 yards with one TD, one interception and two
fumbles.

Warner had not played since he sustained a concussion in a loss
to the New York Giants in Week 1. The two-time MVP had two
possessions to mount a comeback, but he could not move the Rams
downfield.

"I was a little bit off," said Warner, who was 4-of-11 for 23
yards. "The game was moving fast. But it felt good to be out there
again."

Bulger was not the only star stymied by the Lions.

Marshall Faulk was held to 35 yards rushing and a TD, and 40
yards receiving. Torry Holt had just five catches for 54 yards.

Bulger's successful breakout season was stunted in the
regular-season finale. He fumbled on the third snap after halftime,
threw an interception on St. Louis' third drive of the second half
and fumbled on the play that sidelined him.

Harrington, Detroit's second-year quarterback, was 26-of-36 for
238 yards with three TDs and one interception.

"For today, we were the best team in football and that feels
good," Harrington said. "It gives us as a team and as a city, a
taste of what that is like."

Under new coach Steve Mariucci, the Lions matched their win
total from the previous two seasons and had a 5-3 record at home.

"Maybe this team deserves a win like this," Mariucci said.

But Detroit's season will be remembered for the NFL record set
last week at Carolina with a 24th straight loss on the road.

Two Lions -- Az-Zahir Hakim and Dre' Bly -- played well against
their former team.

Hakim had five catches for 58 yards and a TD, and a career-long
35-yard run that set up Harrington's go-ahead TD pass to Casey
FitzSimmons midway through the third quarter.

Bly, the first Detroit cornerback selected to start in the Pro
Bowl since 1977, had a team-high eight tackles and forced a fumble.

The Lions, who had 230 yards passing and 112 rushing, had not
scored more than 23 points since beating Arizona 42-24 in the
opener.

"That's a team that shouldn't be able to move the ball on us,"
Wistrom said. "And they stuffed it down our throats the entire
game."

Game notes
Faulk tied Cris Carter for fourth place on the NFL's
all-time list with his 131st TD. ... Holt finished with 117
catches, two short of Isaac Bruce's team record, and 1,696 yards.
... Harrington completed a career-best 72.2 percent of his passes.
... Bruce started, but did not play much because of a nagging ankle
injury. ... Wilkins set a Rams record with 163 points this season.
... Former Lions great Barry Sanders attended his first Detroit
home game since retiring just before the 1999 season.